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Back in 2016, while working as an enterprise sales rep, I was selling capital equipment and software to hospitals across Canada. I loved my job. No two days were the same. The complexity of the deals, the personalities that had to be considered, and the red herrings that needed identifying made me feel like Hugh Laurie’s character on House. I loved the challenge!
This was my 8th year with the company and my hard work had paid off. Most years I proudly graced the stage with other deserving recipients to collect the sales awards of the year. I enjoyed the galas where we recognized all the efforts and achievements from both individuals and teams alike. It was a night to rejoice and celebrate before moving on to the next deal.
As a guest of the gala, it was great to dress up, toast each other and learn a few things about the ways in which some of the successes came about. This year, I was asked to host the gala. While now I see it as a great honour, in the moment I froze for what felt like 20 minutes when in actuality it was a few seconds. I thanked them for considering me and graciously accepted. When they left the room, I nearly fainted. Completely knowing it was out of my league, ill-equipped to execute on such a lofty task and overridden with fear and panic. However, as a practitioner of self-development I said yes and knew somehow, I would figure it out later.
My parents raised 4 girls, my father instilled within us a strong sense of who we were and what we could accomplish. While I always had a healthy amount of self-belief, at that moment it was blurred by fear. I needed to pull from that assertive girl I once knew. So what did I do? Well, like any novice, I hired a speaking coach.But before they could work their magic, I had to write the speech.
I watched Ellen, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel and Ricky Gervais host various events for inspiration and found it more intimidating than helpful.
I put myself in the audience’s shoes, who are they, and what would they want to hear? What would move them? remind them of their hard work, and sacrifices that ultimately led to a successful outcome. How could I capture that in a story form, a poem, song, or video to ensure the emotions resonated? I wanted them to leave feeling something. Reminded of how hard work, grit and belief do make a difference. I started with the end in mind and worked backwards.
Iteration after iteration, thinking I was a comedian like Ellen I was abruptly told by my speaking coach I was not funny! To which he would say “Karen, you are not Oprah or Ellen, people don’t know you like them. Your humour could offend someone, demotivate someone else.” Now this made me question everything I had written. With some help from him, we landed on a script and were now ready to start the next process, The Performance. Have you ever watched someone perform where they make it look effortless? like they are speaking naturally in the moment? I can tell you from weeks of preparation practicing tonality, pausing, stage placement, introductions in English and French, nothing is by accident. The key is preparation. Playing with it, making it your own, getting comfortable with the material and ultimately owning it. I can confidently say I did this. I visualized myself weeks before, walking onto the stage and delivering a performance worthy of a standing ovation. Feeling joy, pride and a sense of accomplishment as I saw myself in the limelight and the audience smiling and clapping.
The night before when I walked the room, did a dry run of the opening, and tech check everything felt right. I was ready. I was excited to put the weeks of work into practice, I knew I had something everyone would love. Many times, I read both Conor McGregor and Katie Taylor’s victories were due to seeing themselves in the ring long before they were actually in it. They visualized themselves in the tough positions and what it felt like. Then turning things around, what moves they would deploy what emotions they would express and finally seeing themselves carrying the belt. They were not surprised to win title after title.
So why am I telling you all this?….
Well, sometimes we let fear, uncertainty and doubt get the better of us. We have never done something before and our natural tendency is to stay safe and complacent. Our brain likes this mode, but we are not growing while we’re in this state. If you are holding back making a cold call, presenting to the C-suite, or asking for a raise, whatever the situation, know your worth.Interrupt the brain’s safety mechanism and as Mel Robbins would suggest, count backwards, 5-4-3-2-1, say "Yes" and take action. Bet on you, you will figure out the how later. Just Say Yes.
I am writing this blog from Northern Ireland where I had the pleasure of being a keynote speaker at the Northern Ireland Sales Summit. I have 2 other speaking opportunities scheduled for May. I coach sales teams, leaders, and business owners on presentation skills, all because I said yes years ago, despite being afraid. What will you say Yes to? Where will you go toe to toe with fear and win? If you need help starting, please reach out. I know first-hand what it’s like when doubt and fear are almost paralyzing. I also know what it feels like to leave a stage with a standing ovation.
#Betonyourself you can do it.
For 20 years Karen has been specializing in the art and science of sales and communication her passion and experience are helping technical sales professionals become more confident and to disrupt with value.
Her dedication to developing and delivering customized sales training programs provide her audience practical, relevant tools that can be used immediately to break down the barriers in a competitive landscape and separate themselves from the noise.